TAMPA, Fla. — The first prominent high note in the Daniel Jones era of Giants football was a daring 7-yard touchdown scamper by the Giants’ new starting quarterback in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a play that symbolically breathed new life into the Giants, whose sideline was clearly buoyed not just by the score but by its execution.
Here was a bold, designed dash by a rookie quarterback with the kind of dexterous mobility so common to the cadre of young quarterbacks lighting up the N.F.L. in the last two seasons.
About two hours later, Jones, standing in the pocket on a critical fourth-down play in the game’s final two minutes, once again seized the moment with his legs, scrambling untouched into the end zone for another 7-yard touchdown, the game-winner, in the Giants’ stirring 32-31 comeback victory.
The game ended when Tampa Bay kicker Matt Gay, who had also failed to convert two extra points, missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt. Sunday’s outcome still had its down moments for the Giants. Saquon Barkley, the Giants’ All-Pro running back and first-round draft pick from a year ago, injured his right ankle in the second quarter. He left the field limping badly and did not return to the game. In the third quarter, he returned to the Giants’ bench area on crutches and with his right ankle in a protective boot.
Trailing by 18 points at halftime, Jones, replacing Eli Manning, the longtime starter at quarterback, rallied the Giants to behind by 6 points when they took possession of the football at their 25-yard line with 3 minutes 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
After a Buccaneers punt, the Giants began their final drive at their 25-yard line with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter. In rapid-fire fashion, Jones completed four consecutive passes, the last a 36-yard reception to wide receiver Sterling Shepard that advanced the Giants to the Tampa Bay 12-yard line.
A 5-yard catch by Bennie Fowler moved the Giants inside the Buccaneers’ 10-yard line. Two incomplete passes set up a fourth-and-goal at the 7-yard line. Jones dropped back to pass and waited. When no receiver seemed open, he sprinted into the middle of the end zone.
Barkley was injured when he was hit low and tackled after a 19-yard reception in Buccaneers territory. Tampa Bay defender M.J. Stewart fell on Barkley’s right ankle, which twisted awkwardly.
While Barkley’s absence seemed to temper the Giants’ mood initially, as the second half began, Jones continued to put on a show in his eventful starting debut.
On the first play of the second half, he tossed a short pass to tight end Evan Engram, who sprinted around the right end for 75 yards and a touchdown that cut the Buccaneers’ lead to 28-16. Jones then successfully converted the 2-point conversion try with a delicate, well-timed pass to Shepard.
After a Tampa Bay punt, Jones led the Giants on an eight-play scoring drive. The critical gain was a 46-yard reception by wide receiver Darius Slayton that moved the Giants to the Buccaneers’ 4-yard line.
Four plays later, while under pressure, Jones lofted an arching, precise pass into the right corner of the end zone, where it fell into the arms of Shepard for a 7-yard touchdown. The pass also deftly evaded double coverage by Tampa Bay, traversing through a very narrow window on its way to Shepard.
The score cut the Tampa Bay lead to 28-25.
The next two Giants possessions were fruitless as Jones was hounded in the pocket and sacked four times. After an interception by Giants linebacker Ryan Connelly, Jones was sacked again and fumbled the football when his arm was hit from behind as he attempted a pass.
That turnover led to a 23-yard field goal by Gay.
A chorus of cheers greeted Jones before his first play of the game — a reception from the thousands of Giants fans in the crowd, many of whom were wearing No. 10 Manning jerseys.
Jones’s first pass as an N.F.L. starter was an 18-yard completion to Engram on a crossing route. Several plays later, Jones had led the Giants to a 36-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas that cut Tampa Bay’s first-quarter lead to 6-3.
The Giants’ defense aggressively blitzed Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston on many plays, and it did not pay off in the first half. The Buccaneers clearly anticipated the Giants’ intentions, calling a screen pass that caught the Giants short-handed. Running back Ronald Jones took the short pass 41 yards up the left sideline.
When the Giants blitzed again, Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard sliced across the middle for 18 yards. Two plays later, Mike Evans caught a 3-yard touchdown pass — his second — for a 12-3 Buccaneers lead.
But Jones rallied the downtrodden Giants. On a third-and-5, he scrambled around the end for a first down. On another pass play, he absorbed a blow in the pocket, then spun away, and while running to his left, he threw across his body to Barkley for 19 yards to the Tampa Bay 7-yard line. Two plays later, Jones faked an inside handoff, and in what appeared to be a run-pass option play, kept the football and sprinted to his right for the goal line. He scored virtually untouched.